Ricardo to display revolutionary ultra-lightweight rear drive unit at LCV 2015

Ricardo to display revolutionary ultra-lightweight rear drive unit at LCV 2015
02 September 2015




As a part of its contribution to the Ultra-Lightweight Transmission and driveline research project (ULTRAN), Ricardo engineers have designed an innovative rear drive unit based on a range of state-of-the-art technologies, which delivers a product 25 percent lighter than current production – the unit is to be displayed publically for the first time at LCV 2015.



The ULTRAN research project aims to accelerate cost-effective lightweight drivetrain technologies in order to reduce the powertrain weight of future vehicles, and hence improve vehicle performance and reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The project is led by Jaguar Land Rover in a consortium including Ricardo, Tata Steel, Lubrizol, GRM Consulting Ltd, American Axle & Manufacturing and the Universities of Southampton, Newcastle and Warwick – and is supported by InnovateUK. The project has developed, and is in the process of evaluating and demonstrating, a wide range of lightweight driveline technologies using the latest generation Range Rover as the baseline for the research.

A major part of the Ricardo contribution to ULTRAN has been in the design of a rear drive unit to be revealed for the first time at next week’s LCV 2015 event. The unit is a clean sheet design, based around a lightweight differential mounted within a compact, single-piece skeletal casing with tough, lightweight plastic covers. In addition to being 25 percent lighter than current production, the unit is considerably more compact and hence frees-up valuable package space. It is also stiffer and hence provides improved NVH performance. Whilst innovative in design, the low mass rear drive unit utilizes existing materials and manufacturing processes, and so could be applied in series production within three years following successful trials. Next generation materials and manufacturing processes are being developed to further improve performance and weight reduction. By bringing together all aspects of design, manufacturing and materials, ULTRAN aims to deliver a complete solution.

Beyond designing the ultra-lightweight rear drive unit, Ricardo has also manufactured prototypes of the unit for both rig and vehicle based testing and evaluation to confirm durability and the anticipated carbon dioxide impact. Ricardo activities on the ULTRAN project have also included further lightweight design and analysis studies on transmission, driveline and dual mass flywheel systems.

“I am pleased that we will be able to show for the first time at LCV 2015 the new ultra-lightweight rear drive unit developed by Ricardo as part of its work on the ULTRAN project,” commented Jon Wheals, senior technologist of Ricardo Innovations. “This unit can be adapted for almost any front, rear, or all-wheel driveline configuration, providing a highly cost-effective means of achieving a significant mass reduction – proving that even highly scrutinised components can be improved significantly. Complementary to the novel aspects comprising the new axle, this mass reduction project is a great example of how Ricardo’s approach to lightweight design, analysis and optimization can deliver radical mass savings – and consequent reductions in vehicle based carbon dioxide emissions – for all types of driveline and transmission systems.”

The Ricardo ULTRAN ultra-lightweight rear drive unit will be on display at the Ricardo stand (No. C3-604) at the Cenex Low Carbon Vehicle Event 2015, LCV 2015, to be held at Millbrook on 9th-10th September 2015.


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